BUSINESS IN BRIEF 17/2
PM prompts Jardine Matheson to expand operations in Vietnam


PM prompts Jardine Matheson to expand operations in Vietnam, Vietnam yarn spinning industry going strong, MARD works to remove obstacle for agro-forestry-fishery export, Tracodi to list in HCM City

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) receives Jardine Matheson Chairman Henry Keswick on February 17



Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has urged the UK’s Jardine Matheson Group to expand operations in Vietnam, thereby helping to promote the growing strategic partnership between the two nations.

Receiving Jardine Matheson Chairman Henry Keswick in Hanoi on February 17, PM Phuc affirmed that the Vietnamese Government has been taking various measures to create a favourable business environment in line with international standards and free trade agreements Vietnam has joined for foreign enterprises, including Jardine Matheson.

The PM spoke highly of Jardine Matheson’s diverse and successful investment and business activities around the world, adding that the Government and agencies of Vietnam will continue to provide optimal conditions for the firm to expand operations in the country.

Meanwhile, Henry Keswick highly evaluated the vigorous growth of Vietnam’s economy, noting that the group is bolstering cooperation with Vietnamese businesses, especially the Truong Hai Auto Corporation (THACO) – one of the biggest private groups in the Southeast Asian nation.

Jardine Matheson plans to make long-term investment in Vietnam, he said, expressing his hope that the group would receive more support from the Vietnamese Government and relevant agencies.

Keswick affirmed that his firm is willing to partner with Vietnamese enterprises to contribute to the development of the bilateral strategic partnership.

Japanese firms tour farming areas in Lam Dong

A delegation of 20 Japanese businesses visited several farming and processing companies in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong on February 16-17 as part of a business connectivity programme. 

The fact-finding tour was co-organised by the Lam Dong Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion Centre and the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO). 

In Duc Trong district, the delegation visited the Da Lat Tu Nhien Company which makes and exports frozen and dried vegetables and fruits to Japan, and the Hoa Mat Troi (Sun Flower) company which is Lam Dong’s biggest exporter of oncidium orchids to Japan. 

In Da Lat city, they called on Da Lat Gap and Langbiang Farm which are among leading companies in planting safe vegetable. The delegation also toured the wholly Japanese owned Create Star strawberry farm. 

Later on February 17, the Japanese businesses and 48 firms in Lam Dong convened a business connectivity event. 

Speaking at the event, the Japanese side lauded the quality of local farm produce. 

Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Pham S highlighted Japan’s strength in biotechnology, plant varieties, agricultural equipment and greenhouse construction, and pledged all possible support for Japanese firms operating in the province. 

The local firms also expressed their wish to access Japan’s advanced technology and the Japanese market.

Vietnam yarn spinning industry going strong

Raw cotton imports of Vietnam have been on the upswing for the past six consecutive years with roughly 40% of the demand being filled by the US cotton industry, according to official statistics.

Much of the growth in demand has resulted from the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement that provides duty free access for Vietnam-produced yarn that is shipped to its northern neighbour.

If Chinese mills were to import raw cotton directly from the US they would be required to pay a 40% above-quota duty. However, by relocating their mills to Vietnam the yarn manufacturers benefit from the tax savings.

Foreign sector mills in Vietnam account for an estimated one-half to two-thirds of the cotton spinning in the country with the lion’s share of the output shipped to Chinese mills for further processing.

A key factor driving the growth of the cotton spinning segment in Vietnam is the rapidity of the implementation of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement that came into force in 2010.

With full implementation, the customs duty on yarn transported into China from Vietnam, or from any of the other nine Southeast Asian ASEAN member countries, is reduced to zero.

Other ASEAN members such as Indonesia also recorded a rise in yarn exports to China since 2010, while yarn exports to China from major non-ASEAN countries including Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) dropped during that same time frame.

The chief suppliers of cotton to Vietnam, apart from the US, are currently India, Brazil, Australia and Cote d’Ivoire. Together, these five countries account for roughly 70-80% of the Southeast Asian country’s cotton imports.

There had been some concern that China might step up its own cotton production to meet its growing need for materials for the manufacture of finished textile products, lessening its demand for yarn from Vietnam.

However, as more and more Chinese citizens move away from the farms to the larger metropolitan areas of the country, it appears unlikely the country would be able to find sufficient workers to meet this in addition to its other agricultural needs.

Currently, Vietnam exports roughly 65% of the yarn (cotton and other) it produces with China, Turkey, and the ROK the largest purchasers. Export volume of yarn rose 12% in 2015, totalling 961,777 tons. Out of this, 498,100 tons went to China, which was an increase of 26% over the previous year.

Estimates put the volume at 1.17 million tons or 5.37 million bales for the 2015-2016 year, up 25% over 2014-2015.

The future looks strong for the cotton spinning segment in Vietnam. There have been a number of investments both from within the country and from abroad to improve manufacturing processes such as spinning, weaving, and dyeing.

Vietnam is also a part of several free trade agreements that are creating more opportunities for its industries. These agreements include a free trade agreement with the EU, one with the ROK, and a third with Eurasia.

While cotton cultivation by farmers in Vietnam may be falling as they opt to grow other commodities, the country’s position in the global cotton spinning industry appears to be under little threat.

Though the country relies heavily on imports to sustain its yarn production, current prices combined with the country’s portfolio of free and bilateral trade agreements mean that the segment should have little concern over the long-term.

Vietnamese businesswoman to participate in Emerging Leaders Programme

Young Vietnamese businesswoman Dao Lan Huong has been named one of fifteen social entrepreneurs from across the region chosed to participate in the Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program (A2ELP), which is scheduled in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia this March.

The list was announced by Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julia Bishop on the morning of February 17.

The young innovators are the founders of enterprises that address poverty, health, education, technology and environmental degradation.

Minister Bishop congratulated all the participants on their selection for the programme, which will forge new partnerships with businesses and other organisations and further enhance Australia’s relationships with the countries of Southeast Asia.

Dao Lan Huong joined PeaceSoft/Nexttech Group as a co-founder in 2004 when she was still in college and helped develop its vision, strategy and operations to grow the company from five to 400 staff members.

She is currently CEO at Weshop Global & Co-founder of Nexttech Group, a regional cross-border e-commerce business with footprints in the US, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

In addition to founding Teky Academy—the first technology academy in Vietnam—and inspiring others to join the business in executive positions, she also invested in the Vietnam Investment Club (VIC) to help good startups.

During the eight-day programme, Huong and other participants will have the opportunity to learn new techniques and identify opportunities to scale up, increasing their enterprises’ impact. They will also be introduced to leading Australian social ventures and industry experts, which will foster connections across the region.

MARD works to remove obstacle for agro-forestry-fishery export

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has devised a 2017 trade promotion plan to remove obstacles in markets and increase exports of agro-forestry-fishery products.

According to Vo Thanh Do, deputy head of the Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-forestry-fisheries products and Salt Production, the ministry is also working with the Ministry of Industry and Trade to expand markets for the products.

To strengthen rice exports to the largest market of China, the ministry will focus on implementing a protocol on plant quarantine in rice exports to China. It will invite Chinese agencies to conduct capacity evaluation before granting licences to Vietnamese rice producers and exporters, said Do.

The ministry will also hasten negotiations with China to allow more products to be shipped to the market, including fruit, pork, dairy products and seafood. 

Do added that the ministry will also work to secure the US’ approval for Vietnamese mango and star apple to be sold in the US.

In the Japanese market, the ministry wishes to increase the allowed levels of antibiotics in Vietnamese shrimp in line with regulations in other developed countries, while lobbying the country to import Vietnam’s red flesh dragon and “thieu” lychee.

To increase exports of fruit, Vietnam will strengthen exports of fresh mango to Thailand, mango, longan, lychee and rambutan to Taiwan (China), and dragon fruit to Australia,  while asking the Republic of Korea to import star apple, longan, rambutan and lychee.

At the same time, the MARD will ask Australia to evaluate Vietnam’s safe shrimp production chain and then recognise Vietnam as a disease-free region, said Do.

He also revealed that the ministry will build a roadmap to devise obligatory technical criteria for aquaculture exports, while supporting enterprises to build trademarks.

In January, export turnover of agriculture, forestry and aquaculture was estimated at 2.54 billion USD, a year-on-year decrease of 1.4 percent.

Vietnam, Cambodia state banks foster partnership

Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) Le Minh Hung and Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) Chea Chanto have agreed to step up the two banks’ win-win cooperation.

At a conference between the SBV and the NBC in the ancient city of Siem Reap, Siem Reap province on February 17, they agreed to organise the conference annually and increase cooperation to implement reached agreements on border trade payment, banking supervision, and anti-laundering and counterfeit money.

They also noted speeding up cooperation with Laos and Myanmar.

Apart from assistance in university education, the SBV will provide an additional 15 post-graduate scholarships for Cambodian graduates in banking a year from 2017.

The two sides committed to making it easier for commercial banks to establish partnerships and commerce and trade presence in the respective country towards spurring the banking system growth and better serving operations of respective businesspeople and investors.

At the end of the conference, Governors Le Minh Hung and Chea Chanto signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the two banks. 

Tracodi to list in HCM City
     
Transport and Industry Development Investment Joint Stock Company (Tracodi) will list on the Hồ Chí Minh Stock Exchange in April.

It is expected to have a chartered capital of VND324.8 billion (US$14.24 million).

Tracodi, which has interests in mining, labour export, construction, and foreign trade, reported pre-tax profit of VND61 billion last year, up from VND25.5 billion in 2015, Tran Nguyen, deputy head of its investor relations department, told stock market investors at a meeting on Thursday.

Its revenues increased from VND190.6 billion ($8.35 million) in 2015 to VND835.3 billion ($36.63 million) last year, with stone mining, construction and import-export sectors being main contributors, he said.

The company has set a pre-tax profit target of VND67.1 billion on revenues of VND918.8 billion this year, he said.

Tracodi has many group and allied companies such as An Giang Joint Venture of Construction Material Exploitation and Processing (Antraco), Vinataxi and Vinacafe Da Lat JSC.

Some of Tracodi’s ongoing projects include a $49 million upgrade to provincial roads in Long An Province, upgrade of Nguyen Huu Tri Street linking HCM City’s Binh Chanh District with Long An Province’s Ben Luc District, a grade A mixed-use building in HCM City’s District 1 and a residential-shopping complex in Cu Chi District. 

VPBank posts record pre-tax profit
     
Viet Nam Prosperity Bank Joint Stock Bank (VPBank) reported integrated pre-tax profit of VND4.9 trillion (US$218 million) in 2016.

This represents a year-on-year increase of 53 per cent, a record since its establishment.

VPBank on Thursday announced its impressive businesses results for 2016. Accordingly, its net income last year reached VND15.1 trillion, or VND4.5 trillion higher than the previous year.

It said the increasing collection of VND715 billion (up 180 per cent) from resolving debts contributed a significant amount to the high pre-tax profit.

The bank’s total assets in 2016 reached nearly VND226 trillion, posting an increase of 16.5 per cent from the previous year.

Its total capital mobilisation was VND172 trillion or 13 per cent higher than that of 2015. The rate of long-term deposits saw a significant increase from 40 per cent in 2015 to 50 per cent last year.

Its capital adequacy ratio remained at 13 per cent, which was higher than nine per cent stipulated by the State Bank of Viet Nam.

The bank said its total costs for operation in 2016 rose only by 16 per cent from the previous year as it has taken drastic measures to save spending and maximise effectiveness.

Its loans to customers reached 17.5 per cent, with strong growth in the retail sector, including individuals, small-and-medium sized enterprises.

In addition, the loans to real estate sector were reduced from 19.5 per cent in 2015 to 15.8 per cent last year. Its bad debt rate was also reduced from 2.43 per cent to 2.03 per cent in 2016.

VPBank is the only bank in the country awarded the National Brandname for three consecutive years, besides receiving many international awards.

The bank is among the top seven banks in Viet Nam. 

First mobile banking for the poor launched
     
The Viet Nam Bank for Social Policies (VBSP) on Thursday launched a mobile banking service designed to improve the access of disadvantaged people.

The project, which is supported by the Australian Government’s Business Partnerships Platform, aims to increase access to a full range of financial services for low-income households, especially women-led micro-enterprises that lack access to traditional banking services.

The project will be implemented in co-operation between VBSP, Mastercard and the Asian Foundation over three years.

Improving access to financial services is increasingly recognised as key to creating greater economic opportunities for the poor. Unfortunately, in addition to credit, abour two-thirds of Vietnamese people, particularly in rural areas, are disconnected from other formal banking services. This is partly due to the high cost of operating bank branches in remote areas where small frequent transactions are the norm.

Viet Nam has undergone a rapid evolution in information and communications technology with telecommunications networks covering almost the entire country and adults owning mobile phones. However, the use of mobile technology for financial transactions is relatively rare and cash transactions remain pervasive.

“The project will help poor and near-poor households and other social policy beneficiaries to access sustainable and effective financial services, contributing to alleviating poverty and connecting the poor with the economy,” said Hoang Minh Te, VBSP’s deputy director.

He said applying new technology is in line with the Government’s socio-economic development strategy for the 2011-20 period. This will also be one of tools to diversify the bank’s products and services as well as increasing its efficiency in order to serve an increasing number of customers.

VBSP will send account-related information via SMS texts to clients, thus improving transparency and reducing delinquency rates. The bank will pilot mobile banking for customers to make its transaction procedures automatic.

“We want to make a real difference in reducing powerty and ensuring that poor people have access to financial system. Lessons drawn from other markets have shown that digital payments are cheaper, more efficient and ultimately more sustainable,” said Arn Vogels, chief representative of Mastercard Indochina.

Being a specialised and the biggest State-owned financial institution, the bank has provided financial services, especially loans to help reduce poverty and achieve social targets effectively.

VBSP’s strength is a nationwide network of 63 branches, 629 transaction offices, nearly 200,000 savings and credit groups in more than 11,000 communes.

It serves nearly seven million customers with total outstanding loans of VND157 trillion. Nearly 80 per cent of the debtors live in rural and remote areas. 

Enterprises fret over Halong Bay entrance fees

The government of Quang Ninh has informed Halong Bay entrance fees from this April onwards will be based on routes rather than destinations, causing concern that the costs tourists have to bear will shoot up.

The entrance fees will be calculated according to five tourist routes that start from the wharf. For the five final destinations of Van Canh Park, the caves and caverns, the marine culture conservation center, the marine leisure center and Gia Luan Harbor, the fees will be VND250,000, VND250,000, VND200,000, VND200,000 and VND250,000 per visitor respectively.

Tourists wishing to stay overnight will have to pay a charge ranging from VND500,000 to VND750,000 depending on the routes and the length of their stay.

Currently, tourists to Halong Bay pay the general entrance fee of VND120,000 per person, and an additional VND30,000-50,000 for each of the destinations they choose from the list of 19. The rate for an overnight stay is VND200,000.

Businesses believe the new way of charging is unreasonable, making the actual costs for tourists to Halong Bay to increase sharply, or even double from the current levels. Many travel companies and foreign shipping lines are lodging their complaints.

In addition, the fee hikes will go into force in just three months, giving tour operators little time to renegotiate the costs of the contracts they signed with travel companies at home and abroad a year ago or more.

A boat tour operator in Halong Bay said a two-day-one-night trip that takes in two destinations in the chargeable list would cost some VND460,000 each.

Tourists do not often choose their destinations on the same route as the new regulations of the province, but may select one destination from this route and one other from another route. Thus, from April 1 onwards, if going on the same journey as now, tourists must pay twice as much.

“The cost for two people will be up to VND1.5 million, equal to the rate of staying in a 3-star inland hotel for two, while visitors are not offered any extra services. This is unreasonable,” said the tour operator.

This businesswoman said she was having a hard time dealing with the contracts with foreign partners, because some of them would be executed this year though having been signed in 2015.

A number of travel companies in HCMC have similar comments, saying the fee hikes announced by Quang Ninh are out of the blue, spelling great trouble for them. In other tourist destinations, such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a fee increase is often announced two years in advance.

Bui Viet Thuy Tien, managing director of Asian Trails, said that despite the financial aid offered by a number of boat owners in Halong Bay, travel companies with the already-signed contracts would still have to shoulder part of the fee hike. Then, this increase will be factored in their tour prices.

“Constant price hikes will make a destination less competitive. I think it is unreasonable to collect wharf entrance fees from tourists. To attract visitors to the bay, there must be a wharf. This is what a tourist destination must have. Why should there be extra charges?” she said.

Phan Xuan Anh, chairman of Viet Excursions, a unit specializing in catering to international cruise ships, said he was having a headache with the fee hike decision. Many shipping lines have responded unfavorably to this decision and said they might consider changing their destinations if there were further fee increases.

“Halong Bay is a brand to attract visitors. Therefore, this brand should be promoted as a highlight to lure visitors to travel to and spend, rather than getting engrossed in charging their visit,” he said.

Japanese enterprises look for local farming partners

Many Japanese enterprises have introduced some items such as noodles and dried fruits to Vietnamese partners during a business matching session on February 15 with an aim to look for partners for cooperation in production and distribution.

Enterprises of both sides had a meeting to exchange and seek cooperation opportunities as part of the Vietnam – Japan Business Connecting Program in the agricultural sector held by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Vietnam.

The event attracted the participation of 20 Japanese firms and 80 Vietnamese enterprises. Most of them are small and medium enterprises, according to the news site BizLIVE.

Hiroshi Chishima, vice head of JETRO’s representative office in Vietnam, said the Japanese business delegation had made a fact-finding trip to Lam Dong Province and a hi-tech agricultural zone in Vinh Phuc Province prior to the meeting. The Japanese firms said Vietnam has great potential for agricultural development but the local agricultural sector is mainly dependent on small-scale and household businesses.

In the coming time, Japanese enterprises will step up cooperation with Vietnam in the sector based on technology transfer in an effort to improve farming methods and increase the quality of products, Hiroshi Chishima added.

Nguyen Danh Nhan, chairman of Central Agricultural Joint Stock Company, expressed his interest in cooperating with some Japanese firms in the coming years.

However, the investment of foreign enterprises in Vietnam is still facing numerous challenges in terms of land and administrative procedures. The number of Japanese firms investing in the local agricultural sector remains modest, Hiroshi Chishima said.

Farm produce testing center in Mekong Delta unlikely

Opening a testing center for agricultural products in the Mekong Delta is still a hard nut to crack due to many hindrances, although this is a necessary investment to help bolster farm exports from the region, said an official with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Vuong Duc Tuan, vice president of the Southern Operations Department under the Ministry of Science and Technology, told a press conference held in HCMC on February 15 to introduce the upcoming International Mekong Delta Agricultural Festival that the ministry wants to open a testing center in the Mekong Delta despite huge cost.

However, the biggest difficulty is to identify key products and main markets, as each market requires a different set of testing criteria. For example, fruit irradiation is allowed in Australia but disallowed in Japan.

A few years ago, Japan asked for an area of land in the Mekong Delta to build a testing center, but the plan was not realized due to the different testing requirements, Tuan said.

“Building a testing center for exporting agricultural products needs a strong coordination among producers who have a better understanding of the needs of importing markets,” Tuan added.

Truong Quang Hoai Nam, vice chairman of Can Tho City, said he proposed opening a testing center for farm products in the Mekong Delta at a recent conference.

Nam noted that importing countries release new standards yearly and require new testing procedures that increase prices of products. Sanitary and quarantine requirements are among 16 technical barriers that importing countries often employ to protect domestic production without breaking international trade rules.

According to Nam, administrative agencies should ask importing countries not to add new epidemic quarantine requirements.

Many enterprises spend a lot of money and time to transport products to faraway testing centers before sending shipments abroad. Some of them even have to send products to Thailand for testing.

At the press conference on February 15, the organizer also briefed reporters on the forthcoming International Mekong Delta Agricultural Festival.

The event is scheduled for March 9-13 at Can Tho International Exhibition Fair Center on Le Loi Street in Ninh Kieu District, Can Tho City.

Major activities at the event include introducing farm produce, new farming technology and high-tech farming models.

Besides, a conference will be held to introduce new sci-tech applications in production to improve product quality and productivity as well as to connect scientists, producers and agricultural enterprises.

The festival is organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology, in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and 13 provinces in the Mekong Delta.

Abbott franchises 28 products to Domesco Dong Thap

Abbott will franchise 28 products including 17 ordinary and 11 cancer-treatment drugs to Domesco Medical Import - Export Joint Stock Corporation, said a representative of Abbott in Vietnam.

The representative also said that Abbott as a stakeholder of the local corporation will support Domesco in producing and trading activities in Vietnam. Specifically, Abbott will help Domesco build a new factory in Dong Thap by providing technological support and consultancy as well as training programs.

From September to November 2016, Abbott sent specialists to Domesco’s factory in Dong Thap to help improve the local firm’s capacity.

Wisepass app launched for spirit lovers

Startup firm Wisepass has launched a mobile app that allows member users to enjoy spirits and wines at low prices at food and beverage outlets in HCMC.

The app has been built for casual drinkers looking for new experiences. Wisepass said the app enables users to get one bottle every night at every eligible bar in HCMC for a total of VND6 million (around US$265) a month.

Wisepass buys spirits and wines from suppliers and distribute them to its users through the Horeca network of hotels, restaurants and cafes. The firm has clinched deals with 29 partners in HCMC and 121 members have registered for the app to gain access to 16 selected spirits and wines. 

In addition, the app helps the company collect data of the sector and spirits and wines whose sales are strong, as well as information about regular drinkers.

The information is important to firms in the spirit and wine sector and market research companies as well, said Tran Lam, co-founder of Wisepass.

Lam said users of the app are increasing and that VIISA has agreed to invest in Wisepass. The company is eyeing people who look for lunch at signature restaurants.

Hanoi sees newly released Taxi Group app

Taxi Group in Hanoi launched a mobile taxi booking app named Taxi Group for Android and IOS devices on February 15, providing 5-7 seat taxicabs with an average fare of VND10,000-15,000/km for rides in the capital.

Similar to formerly-launched Thanh Cong Taxi app, Taxi Group initially serves Hanoi area only. The app offers traditional taxi service with an average fare of VND13,900-15,900/km and Eco taxis with a fare of VND10,700.

With the app, the fare is announced after the pickup location and the chosen destination are entered by guests. Taxi companies normally apply traditional taxi tariffs to bookings via mobile apps.

A test booking for a 3km distance on a traditional 4-seat taxi from 9 Ly Nam De, Hoan Kiem District to Havana Cafe at 1 Truc Bach, Ba Dinh District with Taxi Group resulted in a tariff of VND45,000, or nearly VND15,000 a kilometer, whereas the Eco taxi fare was down to only VND31,000 for the same distance.

Taxi Group has acquired more than 2,000 Toyota cars such as Vios and Innova in Hanoi and some other northern provinces for traditional taxi service, and Hyundai 110 for Eco taxi operations.

The app provides users with driver’s contact and vehicle details. Computer bookings are also available on Taxi Group website (http://taxigroup.com.vn/). Taxi Group currently offers a VND50,000 discount on a user’s first ride by entering promo code “HIGROUP”, starting from the app launch date on February 15.

Pangasius demand to rise about 20% in 2017

The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Can Tho City (VCCI Can Tho) has predicted the demand for tra fish, or pangasius, would rise 20% in traditional and potential markets this year, the Vietnam News Agency reports.

Notably, pangasius products bound for Asian markets, especially China, are expected to be 1.5 times higher than the U.S.

The Vietnam Directorate of Fisheries has proposed the production plan for 2017, including the pangasius farming area of 5,000-5,500 hectares, output of more than 1.15 million tons, and export turnover of more than US$1.7 billion.

Nguyen Phuong Lam, deputy director of VCCI Can Tho, said the pangasius farming acreage has decreased lately, but productivity has increased and thus higher prices of material fish.

In 2016, the area under tra fish farming in the Mekong Delta shrank by 11% against 2015 to some 3,070 hectares, but output reached 1.08 million tons, up 5%, and productivity averaged out at 313 tons a hectare, up 10%.

In addition, the raw fish price has increased. In January of 2017, the raw fish price leapt to VND28,000 (US$1.23) a kilo compared to VND18,000-19,000 a kilo in the year-ago period.

Vo Thi Thu Huong, deputy secretary general of the Vietnam Pangasius Association (VN Pangasius), said the demand for oversized pangasius had edged up, especially of China.

In 2016, pangasius export turnover totaled US$1.7 billion, up 9.6% against 2015, with the U.S. and China being the biggest importers.

There are currently about 200 enterprises in Vietnam processing and exporting tra fish to 138 markets. The top three enterprises are Vinh Hoan, Bien Dong and Nam Song Hau.

VCCI Can Tho changes promotion tactic

VCCI Can Tho will take a new approach in trade and investment promotions by organizing smaller events tailored to the need of enterprises rather than staging large-scale programs, said Nguyen Phuong Lam, deputy director of VCCI Can Tho.

Formerly, the Mekong Delta was little known to potential investors, so big promotion events were organized to capture their attention. However, the region has become known to many enterprises now, so VCCI Can Tho will focus on medium and small investment promotions, Lam added.

To attract investors from Japan and South Korea, for example, VCCI Can Tho will run small conferences for just about 10 enterprises. Lam thought that it will be more effective if the organizer attends specifically to the enterprises’ demand.

Circular on businessmen’s cross-border trading activities defined

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has issued Circular No.34/2016/TT-BCT stipulating the cross-border trading activities of businessmen at Decision No. 52/2015/QĐ-TTg on management of border trade activities with bordering countries.

The Circular says that businessmen launching cross-border trading activities are Vietnamese ones, including businesses, household business and co-operatives.

The Circular defines documents and procedures for registering cross-border trading activities through border sides and crossings.

Commodities used for cross-border trading activities are listed in Clause 1, Article 6 of Decision No. 52/2015/QĐ-TTg.

Export and import items through the border sides and crossings of the border economic zones must meet the criteria of Decree No. 187/2013/NĐ-CP on implementation of the Trade Law with respect to international purchases.

The Circular comes into effect from February 15, 2017.

CJ Group breaks ground on animal feed plant in Binh Dinh

A subsidiary company of CJ Group, the CJ Vina Agri Co., Ltd, held a ground-breaking ceremony on February 16 for US$19.4 million animal feed plant at Nhon Hoa Industrial Park in An Nhon Town, Binh Dinh province.

The plant will be constructed on an area of 4.1ha with a design annual capacity of 150,000 tons. It will be equipped with hi-tech production technologies and equipment.

After the project comes into operation in January 2018 it will be the sixth animal feed plant of CJ Group in Vietnam.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ho Quoc Dung, chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, thanked CJ Group for choosing Binh Dinh as its destination to expand investment.

He hoped that the group will serve as a bridge to call on more Korean investors to the province and pledged to create favourable conditions for investors to operate effectively.

On the occasion, CJ Vina Agri donated VND100 million to victims of recent floods in the province.

Paddy prices rise as winter-spring crop ready for harvest

Domestic paddy prices have increased by 12 percent as the winter-spring crop in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta is ready to be harvested.

In An Giang province, fresh paddy IR50404 is being sold at 4,500-4,600 VND per kilo, high-quality paddy 4,700-4,800 VND, and dried high-quality paddy 5,650-5,800 VND.

Meanwhile, fragrant Jasmine paddy is priced at 5,300-5,400 VND per kilo, a rise of 50-100 VND.

In Can Thơ city, fresh paddy IR50404 is being sold for about 4,400-4,500 VND per kilo, and Jasmine paddy at 5,400-5,500 VND, an increase of 150-200 VND compared to the price before Tet (Lunar New Year), and an increase of 200-500 VND per kilo compared to the same period last year.    

The price of husked rice on the market is 10,000 VND per kilo and Jasmine rice 14,000 VND per kilo.

The rise in prices for paddy has caused an increase of 5 USD per tonne for rice exports compared to prices before Tet.

Enterprises buy 100-200 tonnes of rice on average each day, while some even buy 300-400 tonnes, said Le Van Hung, deputy director of the Can Tho Department of Industry and Trade.

The Song Hau Food Company has stored more than 40,000 tonnes of husked rice and 5,100 tonnes of unhusked rice at 5,850-6,100 VND per kilo.

The company plans to buy another 40,000 tonnes of rice.

Vuong Dinh Thanh, Vice Chairman of the An Giang provincial People’s Committee, said lcoal enterprises are purchasing about 3,000 tonnes of rice per day to achieve the set target of 150,000 tonnes.

The Tien Giang Food Company has bought 10,000 tonnes of rice at 5,900-6,100 VND per kilo.

Meanwhile, businesses in Dong Thap province plans to purchase 660,000 tonnes of husked rice.

Low productivity was among the reasons for the rise in paddy prices. Many enterprises purchase husked rice and sold more than 293,000 tonnes to Filipino buyers, which contributed to an increase in price.   

Most enterprises said the productivity of paddy in this year’s winter-spring crop fell by 30-40 percent compared to last year due to unpredictable weather, causing disease in paddy.

Industry ministry issues regulations on citizen reception

Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh has recently signed into action the ministry’s regulations on reception for citizens, which took effect right after the signing. 

The reception, open on weekdays at the ministry’s headquarters at No.54 Hai Ba Trung street, Hanoi, aims to acquire public feedback on violations of the Party and State policies and guidelines, and direct citizens to exercise their rights and obligations when they file complaints and denunciations. 

The minister is scheduled to receive citizens on Friday of each month’s third week. In case he is absent, a deputy minister will take on the task. 

In cases of urgency, the minister will meet citizens out of schedule. 

The ministry’s inspectors are responsible for making periodic reports on citizen receptions and the settlement of complaints and denunciations and submit them to the ministry’s leaders before the 15th day of each quarter’s last month, making it easier for them to report to the Government Inspectorate. 

Violations regarding citizen receptions will be strictly dealt with in line with the law.

Dong Nai attracts additional 163 million USD in FDI

The southern province of Dong Nai has lured 16 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects worth almost 163 million USD since the start of the year, announced the provincial Department of Planning and Investment.

Of the investment, 126.7 million USD was registered to pour into seven new projects and the remainder (36.2 million USD) was added to nine existing projects.

The new projects mainly came from the Republic of Korea (RoK), Japan, Singapore, British Virgin Islands and Germany.

According to the Department of Planning and Investment, FDI projects invested in Dong Nai province recently focus on its prioritised fields such as high technology, supporting industry and environmentally friendly projects.

By February 15, a total of 1,671 FDI projects had been invested in the province with a combined capital of 30.46 billion USD, including 1,260 valid projects worth 25.83 billion USD.

These projects came from 44 countries and territories, with the RoK, Taiwan (China) and Japan being the leading investors.

Binh Duong aims for 1.4 billion USD in 2017 FDI attraction

The southern province of Binh Duong has set a target of attracting at least 1.4 billion USD in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2017, prioritising projects with high technology and large-scale ones on urban and service development.

According to Nguyen Thanh Truc, Director of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment, the province has seen good signals in luring FDI this year, with 696.3 million USD flowing in in January.

Major projects llicensed in the first month of 2017 include the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park III with an investment of 284.75 million USD, and an automobile tire cord and airbag factory worth 220 million USD invested by the Republic of Korea’s Kolon Industry Inc in Bau Bang industrial park.

As of present, Binh Duong is home to more than 2,800 FDI projects worth 25.5 billion USD, becoming one of the five leading localities in FDI attraction.

In 2016, Binh Duong saw over 2 billion USD being poured in 240 new projects and 123 existing ones, equivalent to 145 percent of its target. Most new projects were in the fields of manufacturing and processing industries and service. 

Japan, Singapore and the Republic of Korea were three countries with highest investment in Binh Duong during the year.

FID enterprises in Binh Duong paid over 9.09 trillion VND (399.4 million USD) of tax, reaching 100.3 percent of estimate and equivalent to 112.5 percent of that in 2015.

HCM City opens 11 new waterway piers

The HCM City Inland Waterway Port Authority has built 11 inland waterway piers for boat tours.

The piers are located at Lo Gom street in District 6, Binh Dong street in District 8, Binh Hoa residential area in Binh Thanh district, Hoi Son pagoda in District 9, Phu Xuan wharf in Nha Be district, and Giong Chua relic site in Can Gio district.

The piers host both waiting rooms and berths. The structures took almost four years to build and cost 20 billion VND (885,000 USD), the authority said.

The Departments of Planning and Architecture, Transport, Culture, Sports and Tourism proposed these facilities to facilitate waterway tourism.

With nearly 1,000km of rivers and canals, the city has identified waterway development as a huge opportunity for tourism.

Experts said the development of waterway transport infrastructure will not only grow tourism in HCM City but also link it with popular tourist attractions in the southern region, the Mekong Delta and Cambodia.

Besides, it is a solution to reduce traffic congestion, they pointed out.

ThreadSol debuts garment cost-cutting solutions

ThreadSol, an enterprise material management solutions provider for the sewn products industry, has unveiled two cost-saving solutions for the textile industry, intelloBuy and intelloCut.

The company said they could help Vietnamese apparel manufacturers greatly save on material costs and boost profits in an industry that is heavily dependent on economic priorities.

IntelloCut offers cut plan, roll plan and lay plan, with its cloud computing structure helping access the solution from any point.

The company said its flagship product had been proven to optimise fabric usage by saving a minimum of 10 percent.

IntelloBuy is a material estimation solution that gives accurate buying consumption for a particular style, saving on costs at the buying stage for manufacturers worldwide.

“It’s high time Vietnamese apparel manufacturers realise the gravity of targeting fabric costs to increase profits,” Saurav Ujjain, principal consultant of ThreadSol, said.

“In order to stay competitive, they need to achieve this through automation of processes by adopting advanced solutions.”

Large amount of money withdrawn via open market operation

The State Bank of Vietnam withdrew a large amount of money worth 177 trillion VND (7.79 billion USD) via the open market operation and the issue of Treasury bills in the past week.

A report from the Saigon Securities Incorporate (SSI) showed that the central bank issued 14-day T-bills worth 50 trillion VND in the week.

According to the SSI, the withdrawing was made after the central bank had to pump a large amount of money to the banking system to support the liquidity before Tet (Lunar New Year) when the capital demands surged sharply.

In the past week, interest rates for Vietnamese dong loans of different tenors also dropped sharply on the inter-bank market.

The overnight rate was quoted at 1.6 percent against 4.45 percent at the end of previous week.

The rates for one-week, two-week and three-week loans also stood low at 2 percent, 2.9 percent and 3.8 percent against 4.67 percent, 4.73 percent and 4.8 percent at the end of previous week.

SSI forecast that interest rate on the inter-bank market would continuously decline next week.

Berjaya Land to shed asset in Phu Quoc

Berjaya Land Bhd. will sell its entire stake in Vietnamese 4-star Berjaya Long Beach Resort Phu Quoc to Sulyna Hospitality Hotel Restaurant Travel Service Co., Ltd. at the price of VND333.25 billion, or RM65.32 million (US$14.67 million).

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, Berjaya Land Berhad (BLand) announced transferring its entire 70% holding in Berjaya Long Beach Resort Phu Quoc (BLong Beach) to Sulyna Hospitality Hotel Restaurant Travel Service Co., Ltd. (Sulyna).

In addition, according to the agreement between the two parties, Berjaya Leisure (Cayman) Ltd. will also waive the entire debt amount of about VND87.50 billion ($3.85 million) owed to it by BLong Beach so that the acquirer can take over the holding free from all encumbrances.

The transfer is expected to take place by early 2018, including the waiving of debts by Berjaya Leisure (Cayman) Ltd. The gross proceedings, estimated at VND333.25 billion ($14.67 million), will be utilised as working capital of the BLand Group.

The remaining 30% stake is in the hands of joint venture partners Le Thi Chi Private Enterprise (25%) and Long Beach JSC (5%).

BLong Beach received its investment certificate and was incorporated on November 1, 2007. BLong Beach was principally involved in the operation and management of an international 4-star resort cum spa hotel on Phu Quoc Island, known as the Long Beach Resort Phu Quoc.

The hotel has 109 standard rooms, 6 suites, and 4 VIP suites, with a swimming pool, restaurants, functioning/banquet rooms, and a spa centre.

BLand decided to go ahead with the deal in order to realise its investment in BLong Beach.

Berjaya Land Berhad is one of the largest subsidiaries of the Berjaya Corporation. It operates in real estate, casinos, and entertainment.

BLand will have a controlling interest in two large hotels after disposing of BLong Beach, namely InterContinental Hanoi Westlake (75% ownership) and Sheraton Hanoi Hotel (70%). 

According to BLand’s 2016 annual report, both hotels saw increasing occupancy rates on-year, with 2.1 and 9.9%, respectively, and increasing revenues.

Additionally, BLand is the 100 per cent owner of Vietnam Financial Center and Vietnam International University Township in Ho Chi Minh City. It also holds an 80% interest in property developer Berjaya-Handico 12 Co., Ltd. known for Hanoi Garden City, and a 75% stake in Bien Hoa City Square in Dong Nai province.

H&M hiring staff for first store in Hanoi

The Swedish fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) is preparing for its Vietnam debut this year.

The Swedish low-cost clothing outlet, H&M, announced it would open a store in Vietnam this year, making it the fourth fast fashion label to enter Vietnam after Zara, Mango and Gap.

The company has remained circumspect about where and when the first outlet would open, but a source at the Manpower Group, a multinational human resource consulting firm, told VnExpress it is handling the entire recruiting process.

According to a recruitment announcement, H&M's first store in Vietnam will occupy about 2,000 square meters in Hanoi and employ roughly 100 people.

The firm also plans to hire employees in Ho Chi Minh City, according to the Manpower announcement.

H&M currently operates around 4,200 stores across 64 markets.

In spite of falling earnings, the retailer has shown no sign of slowing down its global expansion.

In addition to Vietnam, it has announced the plan to open stores in Georgia, Colombia, Iceland and Kazakhstan this year.

VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VET/VIR

PM prompts Jardine Matheson to expand operations in Vietnam, Vietnam yarn spinning industry going strong, MARD works to remove obstacle for agro-forestry-fishery export, Tracodi to list in HCM City
 
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